By Darryl Alder
Sep 07, 2014

Thoughts on the LDS Church and Scouting Partnership


“No man is much good unless he believe in God and obey His laws. So every Scout should have a religion” BP in the 1908 Scouting for Boys Handbook

Recently a reader commented on the article “Why Scouting Matters to LDS Church Leaders”. Of the RED Research he wrote: “This description is a perfect description of an Aaronic-priesthood based program, not a Scouting program. I don’t believe that Scouting is contrary to the ways of the Church. Nor do I believe that there is a conflict between the goals of Scouting and the goals of the Church.”


LDS Church joins the Boy Scouts of America on May 21, 1913 as BSA‟s first chartered organization. It sets the pattern for other organizations to sponsor Scout groups.

The first duty of a Scout as explained by Scouting’s founder BP (Baden Powell) is Duty to God. In 1920 he explained: “There is no religious side to the movement, the whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.”  The RED Research shows that many LDS leaders do not see this religious element in Scouting.

In 1913, when the LDS Church qualified for a charter from the National Council, the Deseret News explained, the Church expected Scouting “to promote discipline and develop character, to instill honor and trustworthiness in the lives of young boys and to inspire them with a sense of duty to parents, country, and religious ideals.”

The Oct 2013 Ensign reports that, “About ten years after the Church affiliated with the Boy Scouts, Church leaders decided that MIA meetings would be dedicated solely to Scouting and no longer divide their time between Scouting and religious activities. That determination rested on the conclusion ‘that religious training could naturally occur through Scouting activities.’”

vintage LDS scoutingOver the years, many LDS seemed to loose faith in that “naturally occuring” process and many worked it out of their programs on purpose, making Sunday for religion and Scouting for fun. The RED research suggests that the overt attempt to separate Scouting from church is preventing the intended outcome of character, citizenship and fitness, which is what the Church expects from the program.

Our reader went on to write: “… notice how few of the pillars in the diagram have a direct connection with advancement in Scouting.”

When a scout unit uses all eight Methods of Scouting (only one of which is advancement), we get to our aims of character, citizenship, and fitness. One of the most troubling misconceptions about Scouting in the LDS Church is that it is often only seen as advancement toward Eagle. For a boy to gain the full benefit of Scouting all the Methods must be employed. These include: doing more spiritual activities when camping and hiking, using the Patrol Method and wearing uniforms to strengthen quorum bonds, teaching leadership skills to each Scout, using the method of adult leadership and the Oath and Law to counsel with youth about their “Duty to God”, engineering personal development for each be-prepared-scouts-AV120515_cah0010boy and to make the “whole of it is based on religion” as BP suggested.

Our reader commented: “Maybe we do need a marketing campaign for Scouting. But I’d feel a lot better if the marketing campaign for scouting focused on the scouting program, not on add-ons to the program like ‘Baden-Powell intended it to have,’ even though they don’t show up in the current materials.”

In a multi-faith based organization, like BSA, it can be difficult to help specific faith based charted organizations use the program as they might see fit; the training and literature are generic, leaving adaptations up to each chartered organization.

RED’s Research suggests that the Utah National Parks Council, BSA needs to do more to help their leaders better understand the partnership and use of the program to get to Church objectives, which are:

  • Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
  • Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
  • Give meaningful service.
  • Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
  • Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.
  • Obtain as much education as possible.
  • Prepare to become a worthy husband and father.
  • Give proper respect to women, girls, and children. (Handbook 2, Section 8.1.3)

To help make this happen the council started a Applied Gospel Principles in Scouting (AGPS) Committee to develop resources for adult leaders and young men in Scouting, helping them apply, in the weekly laboratory of Scouting, doctrine and principles taught and learned by the young men on Sundays.  This BSA Utah National Parks Council resource is titled:  “Come, Follow Me and Scouting Activities.”


Our reader wrote: “I think that when the Utah National Parks Council claims that all of the benefits from the priesthood activities are due to Scouting, they overstate the cause. And I don’t think that the overstating is necessary. Scouting is a great program. Bearing testimonies around a campfire is a wonderful, spirit-building moment. But you won’t find anything in Scout training telling you to do that. (You also won’t find anything preventing you from doing it).”

The same Oct 2013 Ensign article reports: “As Scouting matured in the Church, leaders took steps to correlate the program more closely with the Aaronic Priesthood, and Church manuals emphasized unity between the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting.”  The point of the research now is to help LDS Scouters feel free to make a better marriage between the Scouting program and their own objectives listed above. The Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting combine to provide valuable resources in helping our youth grow to their fullest potential. 

Darryl Thumbnail
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA




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